Watching the footage of Nogales Mayor Octavio Garcia-Von Borstel and his father Octavio Garcia Suarez dragged before a judge in shackles and prison stripes after their arrests on charges of bribery, theft, fraud and money laundering, raises a few interesting questions regarding Maricopa County's crotchety top constable, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The indictments of Von Borstel and his pop were announced with great fanfare by Attorney General Terry Goddard yesterday, with press releases and mug shots, and media availability for TV crews. You know, to get those all-important sound bites in for the evening news, natch.
"These charges are serious violations of the law," the press release quoted Goddard as saying. "Because some charges involve the official actions of an elected official, they violate the public trust."
FBI Special Agent Nathan T. Gray had words to say as well, as his agency did the investigation and made the collar.
"When a public official allegedly commits criminal acts it erodes the public's trust," he explained. "The FBI and our law enforcement partners are determined to address public corruption at all levels of government."
Now, which elected Sand Land official comes to mind when you think of "public corruption" and violating "the public trust"?
Maybe a certain portly "shurf" with a bulbous W.C. Fields schnoz?
Consider this: the investigation into Nogales' mayor took five months. The AG's office and the FBI have been investigating Arpaio's office for two years.
I asked Goddard's spokeswoman Molly Edwards about the discrepancy. She declined to comment specifically on the AG's probe into the shenanigans involving the Sheriff's Command Association. But she did reply in general.
"No two cases are alike," she asserted. "Some take longer, some are shorter. There are all different kinds of cases."
Fair enough. Still, Arpaio's misdeeds in office stretch back 17 years, and they've been documented ad nauseum. For instance, I recently blogged about the affidavit of former MCSO Lt. Bobby Wetherell, whose allegations of MCSO wrongdoing go back to 1996.
There are plenty of others whose allegations have predated the FBI's current investigation, like Arpaio's former right hand man Tom Bearup, ex-MCSO Lieutenant Roy Reyer, MCSO Deputy David Cool, and Phoenix attorney Mike Manning, who handed over boxes of info indicating possible evidence tampering by the MCSO in the killing of inmate Scott Norberg to the U.S. Attorneys Office, back when Janet Napolitano was U.S. Attorney for Arizona. (She did zilch, of course.)
The point is, the feds have known for years that the MCSO is a giant garbage can filled to the brim with wriggling maggots, and they've done nothing to upend that can and hose it out.
But that aside, if the U.S. Department of Justice scores indictments out of the grand jury still looking into the MCSO, would Arpaio, Chief Deputy David Hendershott and all the rest face the humiliation of being arrested, put in stripes, and placed in shackles?
FBI spokesman Manny Johnson wouldn't comment on anything Arpaio-related, but he said it's not the FBI's call as to whether a suspect earns steel bracelets or a summons to appear. That decision, Johnson told me, would have to come from a magistrate.
Still, I do recall that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was handcuffed when he was arrested on federal corruption charges at his North Side Chicago home in 2008 by the FBI. He didn't receive a mere summons. Why should the likes of Hendershott or Arpaio be any different, if indictments are filed?
Plus, you know Hendy and Joe would go there. That pair has always been all about the perp walk -- even if they know they can't make charges stick, even if they know the county will be sued for false arrest.
If there's any payback for all of Arpaio's bad karma, the FBI will one day be pounding on Joe and Ava's door in Fountain Hills. And if the feds arrest him on a Friday night, he could be in stir till Monday morning, perhaps with Hendershott as his cellie. See, I'm told the magistrates only do Monday through Friday.
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